Space Religion and the Infidels

I love myjob. As a publisher of space exploration books, I get to rub shoulders withsome of my childhood heroes, why just last week I spent three days with BuzzAldrin in Washington DC; the man is still brilliant and passionate about spaceexploration. Through my connections at various space advocacy groups I also getinvolved in all sorts of incredible projects, discussions, lobbying efforts,private space companies and many other spacey things.

Spaceadvocacy is like a religion in that you have to have faith, either in theoverarching goal of settling the solar system and maybe one day the stars, orin how that next Reaction Control System will have an ignition system that doesn't use asingle point criticality method for lighting the fuel and oxidizer. Everythingis discussed with passion and conviction. It's no wonder that the generalpublic has no idea what space exploration is really about, how could they? Dothey have the requisite intelligence or more precisely, faith in any one of themany different space ivory tower "religions"?

It remindsme of the part in Monty Python's Life of Brian where, in a matter of moments,the new messiah's church is split into either following the shoe or the gourd inorder to be a true believer. Killing the heretics seems to be the instant orderof the day. The National Space Society (NSS) has seen much of this kind of fractioussplitting of faiths in its multi-decade lifespan. You only have to look aroundat the space advocacy groups dotted around the Cyber-landscape to see many thatsplit off from NSS as heretic splinter groups no longer content to bow to the"space papacy." (Try saying that 10 times quickly)

Someadvocate commercialization of the high frontier, perhaps the only true way toachieve sustainability, others say "science only" and keep your muckycommercial hands off our pristine solar system. (Who decided it was theirs inthe first place is a mystery.) I really wouldn't like to see casinos on themoon but let's face it, it's commerce that pays for science in the long run. Sowe have a face off between different believers and infidels. Perhaps Carbonversus Silicon on the final frontier.

The latestcul-de-sac space argument I've been listening to is that Space Tourists don'tlike being called ... tourists. They see themselves as much more than paying phototakers in Hawaiian shirts, which is the usual image of the T word. Quiterightly so, the private citizens who have visited the Space Station, some ofwhom I've met, are extraordinary human beings. They have excelled in their chosenfields and have put their money where their mouths are and have visitedsomewhere the rest of us can only dream of. They are involved in trying to openspace for all of us, so maybe the word tourist is not right for them. Maybethey should be citizen explorers, or space flyers, can't they just beastronauts? It depends on your space religion which of these fits your beliefs.

But hold ona minute! One thing almost all of us in the space community agree on is thatspace is the future of the human species. It's important that we the convertedand faithful, the "chosen people" spread our gospel to the unbelievers and thespace infidels who comprise most of humanity. In order to do this we have tospeak to them not from up on high from the temple walls in languages they donot comprehend, but in phrases and terms that they do understand. The infidelsunderstand the word Tourist. It means somebody who is a traveler visiting newplaces on their own dime and hopefully having fun doing it. They get that. Theyknow it costs a lot, but they get it. Trying to once again obfuscate thelexicon because we find the term "tourist" demeaning is counter productive toour cause. In private space churches if you want to call themCitizen-Space-Flyer-Explorernauts then do so, but don't try to tell Joe &Jane Public that, because they'll switch channels on you as fast as you can say"new reality show."

Dennis,Mark, Greg, Anousheh and all those who follow, please forgive me now forcalling you tourists, it's for expediencies sake. In reality you will always beCitizen-space-flyer-explorernauts extraordinaire in my heart.

  • MULTIMEDIA: Compete, Cooperate or Get Grounded!
  • MULTIMEDIA: Space Tourism: An Overview
  • Image Gallery:Anousheh Ansari Pre-launch Gallery

RichGodwin is President of CG Publishing and Apogee Space Books and a Board Memberof the National Space Society.

NOTE: The views of this article are the author's and do not reflect the policies of the National Space Society.

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